In this week’s episode, I explain how I created my audiobook of Rise of the Sparrows with FindawayVoices. Next week, we’ll hear from Dana Fraedrich, who has created audiobooks with FindawayVoices, ACX, and by herself.
Here are the resources I used for my research as mentioned in the episode:
Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn (book)
ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)
Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)
How to Make an Audiobook | Part 1: Set up (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)
How to Make an Audiobook | Part 2: Production (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)
Audiobooks For Authors With Will Dages From Findaway Voices (blog post or podcast (your choice!) by Joanna Penn)
You might also like to check out my Audiobook Diaries, where I blogged about my experience as it happened.
Listen to the Episode
Read the Transcript
[Writing Sparrow theme]
Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.
Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 26th April, and this is Episode 33 in which I’ll talk you through what creating my first audiobook was like. Way back when I was first starting to plan this podcast, this was one of the requested episodes, so I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to do it. I didn’t want to do it as one of the first episodes and have it look like you need to get a move on with your audiobook when many of you are possibly at the very start of your author journey. Audiobooks are great, but they aren’t something you need to consider before you’ve even written your first word, at least I wouldn’t say they are.
Before we start, I want to stress that, as with anything in writing and publishing, there’s no one right way to do it. I created my audiobook with FindawayVoices, but you can choose ACX or to narrate it yourself if that’s what you prefer. This episode won’t have anything for you if that’s the case, but I hope you’ll learn something anyhow. Because I’ve only tried Findaway, I’ll be talking to Dana Fraedrich next week, who’s done a bit of everything. There’s a lot of info to get through, so I’ve decided to split this episode into two – my experience with Findaway today, and Dana’s much vaster experience next week.
If you’re interested, I first wrote about my experience on my author blog at sarinalanger.com where I kept a week-by-week diary of what was happening. It was a really daunting experience for me, and I think having an audiobook created of your own book sounds daunting to many writers, so I hoped keeping track of it week by week would shed some light on what happens and how long this process takes.
So let’s hop to it!
I started with research. As I said, this was daunting and I really didn’t want to mess it up, so I read books, blog posts, and watched YouTube videos to learn how this process worked and what was involved. The ones I found most helpful were the blog posts by Dana Fraedrich, the book Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn, and the Youtube videos by Jenna Moreci. Don’t worry if that was too fast—they’re all linked in the show notes and in the first blog post on my website.
The first thing that stood out to me was the emphasis on getting your cover done. If you’ve already published your book and now want to dive into audiobooks, you’ve already got a cover, but it won’t do for your audiobook because they’re a different size. You can try to resize your cover yourself, but just cutting out a square will likely miss some important information and look squished. You don’t want it to look unprofessional, so just ask your cover designer to do it for you – they have the source material and know what it should look like.
But why start with the cover? Because you can upload it at the very beginning of the processe. Potential narrators will see the cover and take two things away from it: 1) you’re prepared, which always looks good, and 2) whether it looks like it might be a good fit for them.
So pop that near the top of your to-do list, right under doing you’re research – which you’re doing right now!
I also had a lot of things to consider regarding who would create this audiobook. I’ll go into the pros and cons of all options with Dana Fraedrich next week, so for now, let it be enough to say that I preferred Findaway Voices because the way their narrators get paid is fairer and they distribute the book to more retailers. As with every pro you might hire for your books, narrators put it in a lot of hard work and deserve to get paid for their time and effort, and the way Findaway handles this seems fairer to me. But, as I said, more on that next week.
Getting started with Findaway is super easy. If your books are already on Draft2Digital, you have a little microphone button you can click next to your books, which will take you to Findaway where you then start the process. That’s what I did. I believe you can also sign up with Findaway if you’re not with Draft2Digial, but I think you’ll need to pay to create your profile whereas Draft2Digital gets you in for free… but don’t quote me on that. I was already on Draft2Digital, so I can only tell you for sure how easy and free it was that way.
It also helps that Draft2Digital already have a lot of the book’s information like the blurb and the text, and Findaway simply take it from them, which saves you some time.
You’ll need to set your audiobook’s release date pretty much right away. I stumbled here. I had no idea what to put because I hadn’t done this before and every audiobook is different, so just hear this: leave plenty of time. Recording and editing an audiobook isn’t a quick job, so don’t set your release date—or street day on Findaway—to a month later. I set mine to four months later, and that was fine. This date is flexible, so don’t worry if you need to change it later.
Now, because a lot of money is involved, you’ll need to fill in a tax form and sign a contract. Read this carefully. If anything doesn’t work for you, you can either contact them and ask them to explain or you can walk away and find someone else, but don’t just skim it. There’s nothing scary in there and I know it’s not a thrilling read, but it’s important.
Oh, and since I mentioned their customer service—they are super helpful. I had a lot of questions, especially in the beginning, and they always got back to me quickly, answered everything with patience and sweetness, and I never felt like I was pushed onto an automatic response system or like they didn’t care. Their customer service is awesome and I love them.
But let’s get to the price, because I know you’re wondering how much all this is going to cost you. Findaway has two options: VoicesPlus, and let’s call the other one regular. On the regular plan, you pay the full price and keep 80% of the royalties. Findaway keeps the other 20. VoicesPlus, on the other hand, means you pay half after the recording is done but before they begin distribution. After that, your narrator earns 20%, Findaway earns 20%, and you keep 60%. This is a great option if you don’t have a lot of cash lying around because your narrator definitely gets paid half, even if you don’t sell a single audiobook. To get into VoicesPlus, I had to prove that it’d be worth their time by providing a few details, such as how readers have reacted to the book on social media, links to review sites like Amazon and Goodreads, and how many sales or downloads it’s had for the last… four months? I don’t remember. If they don’t think that you’d sell enough to make it worth your narrator’s time, you don’t get in. This is because Findaway want to make sure that their narrators definitely get paid. I got lucky and got in.
The actual fee depends on two things: your book’s length and your narrator’s experience. A narrator who’s been in the business for twenty years will charge more than a narrator who’s only just starting out. There’s nothing wrong with either option – choose the one you can afford and who auditioned the best.
I know this sounds vague, but: when Findaway send you a list of narrators they recommend for your book, and they all come with a quote so you know exactly how much to expect. Don’t worry if you can’t afford any of them – you haven’t committed to anything yet at this point, so it’s not too late to back out.
For Findaway to send you those recommendations, you fill in a questionnaire so they know what to look for. This was interesting, because it got me to think about my book in new ways. You’ll have to define the overall tone of your book, the type of voice you’re looking for, and fun things like that. My narrator also asked me to provide a list of pronunciations for everything. She wanted to get the names right, so this was an important list… but I don’t know if that’s protocol. Your book might not need it. I write epic fantasy and made up a lot of names, so she asked for it.
Once you have your recommendations, you can request an audition. All narrators come with some samples of work they’ve done previously, but the audition lets you hear them read an excerpt from your book. Super exciting, and super emotional.
Findaway defaults to the first few paragraphs in your book, but you want to find an excerpt that includes your main characters, maybe an emotional or otherwise important scene that needs to hit right. Your opening scene isn’t likely to have those things, so pick wisely!
It’s important to note here that the narrators can turn you down. Remember—Findaway recommended them, they didn’t volunteer themselves. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested. I got 8 recommendations, sent requests to 5, and got 2 auditions. If none of them seem right to you or none of them want to audition, you can request another set. If the first set wasn’t quite right, you can also include a note to re-specify what you’re looking for. I did get a great variety of experience levels, which I thought was really impressive, and I got them within a few days, so I didn’t have to wait long.
The actual auditions are… interesting. If you thought holding your book in your hands for the first time was emotional, wait til you hear a professional voice actor read it out loud. That was something else, and I recommend tissues.
Once you’ve heard a narrator you’re happy with, you can click another button to let them know you want to work together. Findaway contacts them and sets everything up.
It took four weeks to get from initial research to this point, by the way, and those weeks went fast.
Once everything is settled, your narrator will begin, well, narrating. They’ll upload individual chapters so that you can request changes on a chapter-by-chapter basis. You will need to listen to every chapter, read along with your paperback, and catch mistakes. This isn’t a time to get picky. Your book will sound a certain way in your way, and your narrator’s reading won’t match it perfectly. It can’t, because they’re not you. It’s their interpretation of your book, not yours. If they don’t quite put the emphasis where you would, let it go. Your narrator is a pro and knows what they’re doing. If a word is missing, however, or there’s some kind of background noise or they’ve read a sentence twice, or anything like that that shouldn’t be there, point it out.
You’ll go through the entire book this way until everything is recorded, you’ve checked every chapter word for word, and everything is ready. This can take a while. You might not be your narrator’s only client, so be patient and let them do their thing. Findaway then take care of the audio edit, and from what Dana told me, this is not an easy job, so that’s something to think about if you’d like to do everything yourself. More on that next week.
Once everything is ready and paid, Findaway distributes your book to nearly 40 online stores at time of recording this episode, including Audible. You’ll also get 100 Download codes you can hand out to your ARC team or anyone else who wants an early listen. It’s important to note with this that Audible won’t let someone review a book unless they’ve bought it, so while you can get early reviews on some sites, Audible isn’t one of them.
Findaway also sent me a few other handy things, like a social media marketing kit, an explanation of how royalties work, etc. They also suggest a price for the book. You can set your own, but I figured Findaway know what they’re doing, so I ran with their suggested price.
One really important note on your release date: this is not the date your book will be out everywhere. Some sites take a lot longer than others—it took a few months to be on Audible, for example—so don’t go telling everyone that your audiobook will be available everywhere from that date. The links will slowly trickle in, but it’ll take time. This isn’t Findaway’s fault, just a difference in how the different retailers do things.
And that’s how you create an Audiobook with FindawayVoices! It’s an easy recommendation from me, but for more options, listen in again next week Monday, when Dana Fraedrich outlines the other options. And don’t forget, you can also click the link to my Audiobook Diaries in the shownotes for even more info.
I hope that’s answered a few things for you, but if you still have questions, get in touch. My social media handles will follow in a second.
That’s it for now! Have a great week, bye!
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, on Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.
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This transcript was done by Sarina.
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